Virginia’s famously hard working U.S. Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine carved out time in his busy schedule last month to headline a nearby event honoring the venerable and deeply beloved Falls Church-Arlington married political team of Mary Margaret and Tom Whipple.
“I value my Sundays as my days off and usually don’t like to go anywhere then,” Kaine told the 100 or so gathered at the home of a local Arlington political leader, “But there was no way I was going to miss this one.”
The couple has been mainstays on the Northern Virginia political scene since moving here in 1965, since Mary Margaret’s appointment to the Arlington School Board in 1976, election to the County board in 1982, and to the state senate in 1995, a post she held while being named the first ever woman chair of the Virginia Senate Caucus and named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women until her retirement from the senate in 2011. That same year she was named the President’s Choice Award winner for “her lifetime of unwavering support for affordable housing” by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) and she was appointed to the vice-chair of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission culminating in the dedication of “Voices from the Garden,” the first monument in the U.S. dedicated to women that is located on the state capitol grounds in Richmond.
As for Tom, he has been Mary Margaret’s loving and loyal companion along the same road all these decades, sharing the raising of their children, since embarking on his own career in 1965 that lasted 35 years with the CIA, becoming an election data analyzer and newsletter editor for the Arlingtonians for a Better Community. In 1996 he launched a daily service, “Whipple Clips,” that gathered and disseminated online newspaper stories from throughout the state.
From their basement, Tom began the Campaign Support Center in 1997, the first computer operation in Virginia that produced registered voter lists for the state that grew to include a printing operation that was eventually moved to the headquarters of the Arlington Democrats supporting campaigns throughout the state. That year he became the first recipient of the state Democratic Party organization’s Tom Whipple Award for Service, given annually to an exemplary Virginia Democrat ever since.
In the last decade, as Mary Margaret has continued her service on the Women’s Monument Commission, where so far seven of 12 statues have been installed, she was appointed by Gov. McAuliffe to the Virginia Board of Health, has served as president of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and currently serves as the regional director for community and member outreach for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Meanwhile, Tom continues his activism as a fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute and writes articles for the Energy Bulletin covering the economics of oil prices, supply, climate change, renewables and technology.
Recently, Mary Margaret has been a strong supporter of the election and service of Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti.
In her role as state senator, Mary Margaret wrote regular columns on state and local politics for the Falls Church News-Press, and Tom wrote frequently for the News-Press as well on national and global energy issues.
Tom Whipple originally met Mary Margaret Hierth in 1958 at Rice University in Texas. They married in 1958 and moved to this region. As Mary Margaret continued for an undergraduate degree in English, obtaining a master’s degree and teaching at the Northern Virginia Community College, Tom attended the London School of Economics.
Their lives of service have been described by the Arlington Democrats Joint Campaign that hosted the event honoring them as “filled with energy, intelligence, imagination and love.”
At the Sept. 26 event, in addition to Sen. Kaine, Virginia U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, Maryland U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, and other current electeds Barbara Favola, Dick Saslaw, Ken Plum, Alfonso Lopez, Rip Sullivan and others were present, along with the legendary former U.S. Senator and Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb and his wife, Linda Bird, daughter of the late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Altogether, their remarks of tribute to the Whipples lasted over an hour.
The countless events and campaigns the two have attended and supported in Arlington and Falls Church over the years included more than 70 held at their own home in a North Arlington cul-de-sac.
Their own travels were scaled back, of course, by the pandemic, but a drive up to Toronto to attend a friend’s funeral took place earlier this month, following a trip to Texas in June, to Colorado in July and time set aside every year to hang out at their summer cottage in August, almost exclusively to visit family.
And, like Tim Kaine, they wouldn’t have missed the big event in their honor last month for anything.